Nothing says fall quite like a pumpkin. When they start appearing on the front stoops and in the windows across New Jersey, you know fall really has arrived. Sure, you can grab one for your family at the local garden center or even grocery store, but why miss out on a visit to one of NJ's many pumpkin patches where you're sure to run into more fall fun, including barnyard animals, hay and corn mazes, and even the season's other favorite fruit: apples.
So pack up the kids for one of our favorite fall day trips and visit one these dozen popular farms around the state to pick out just the right pumpkin.
Closer to the New York border? Check out these Westchester and Hudson Valley pumpkin patches. Closer to south Jersey or headed for a Bucks County getaway this fall? Our Philadelphia site has the info on Pennsylvania pumpkin patches.
Alstede Farms – Chester
This NJ farm has a lot to offer, including farm animals to feed, activities for the kids, including a bounce house, wagon ride, corn maze, and hay pyramid to climb, and of course, a farm stand and tons of pick-your-own options. The weekend atmosphere is downright carnival like, so arrive early to beat the crowds. Pick your own pumpkins from mid-September through mid-November. There are various ticket packages, including a weekday special.
Conklin Farm U-Pick – Montville
Conklin is a smaller venue that comes highly-recommended from our MP writers. It has all you could ask for: pumpkin picking, corn maze, hayrides (even a haunted hayride for your older, braver kids), but at a less-frenetic pace. Plus, a snack shack with hot cider, candy apples and warm homemade donuts keep everyone happy.
Demarest Farms – Hillsdale
This Bergen County farm is a fun place to take the family. Pick-your-own pumpkins begins mid-September at this local favorite, and includes weekday and weekend options. Of course, you can also pick-your-own apples and many other vegetables, hitch a hayride, and paint pumpkins. Dig into fresh salad bar and deli if you need a post picking pick-me-up.
RELATED: 25 Things We Can't Wait to Do this Fall with NJ Kids
Climb on the wooden train at Happy Day Farm's "Kids Korner." Photo courtesy of the farm.
Happy Day Farm – Manalapan
You won't be bored at this Monmouth County farm. It's loaded with family activities, including pumpkin picking, crafts, pony rides, hayrides, a wooden train, pig races, swings, a zoo and even a "Kids Korner" for the 2- to 6-year-old crowd. Plus, you won't want to miss the Rutgers-themed corn maze.
Heaven Hills Farm – Vernon
Heaven Hill Farm is known for its Great Pumpkin Festival, which it bills as the "largest fall festival in northern NJ." You'll find pumpkin picking, but also hayrides, pig races, a cool spider web crawl, games, carnival rides (only on weekends), corn stalk and hay maze, farm animals, a boo barn, and much more. Return later in the season for the Halloween Trick or Treat Trail.
Norz Hill Farm – Hillsborough
Pumpkin-picking, hayrides and farm animals are all part of the fall fun at Norz Hill. Pumpkins and hayrides are available on weekends beginning in early September, and daily later in season. Don't forget to try the 5-acre corn maze, which boasts a new design each season.
Oasis Family Farm – Robbinsville
Pick pumpkins, eat homemade ice cream, enjoy games, and even a monster truck day at this NJ farm. There's even an ant colony and gem mine to explore!
Ort Farms – Long Valley
This 100-year old family-run farm is described as quieter and less-commercial by visitors, but still with tons of family fun like hayrides, farm animals, chopping pumpkins off the vine, a tractor playset, hay pyramid and even Monster truck rides.
Get 'em straight from the vine at Riamede Farm. Photo courtesy of the farm.
Riamede Farm – Chester
For some real pumpkin picking, the kind where you cut the pumpkin right off the vine yourself, go to Riamede Farm. The quiet, simple, laid-back farm includes a hayride to the pumpkin patch and just plain ol' pumpkins. Don’t forget to bring your own clippers!
Stony Hill Farms – Chester
Huge, homegrown pumpkins are waiting to be picked at Stony Hill Farms, available late September through October weekends. While you're there, check out the farm's other fall festivities, including hayrides, fresh produce and baked goods, and a 10-acre corn maze.
Sussex County Strawberry Farm – Newton
The name of this farm can be misleading. Sussex County Strawberry Farm isn’t just a place to pick ripe summer fruit–it has pumpkins, too! Beginning the first week in October, enjoy picking many different varieties of pumpkins, weekend hayrides, horse-drawn carriages, fresh cider, and apples.
Terhune Orchards – Princeton
Terhune is such a fun place to bring the family, because of the breadth of kid-friendly things to do around the farm. Check out the pumpkin picking fields (September – October) at the main farm (Cold Soil Road), where you can grab some gourds as well. Weekends from mid-September through October, enjoy Family Fun days complete with music, food, pony rides, the adventure barn and, you guessed it, fun. Head over for the Read & Pick Pumpkins event (October 4), where kids will hear two pumpkin-related stories and then get to pick their very own pumpkin to bring home. Plus, kids can always enjoy the farm animals, trails and hayrides, and parents the farm store and winery.
Kids will love the corn sandbox at Wightman's. Photo by the author.
Wightman's Farm – Morristown
This is my family's go-to pick-your-own NJ farm. Wightman's kicks off pumpkin season in mid-September, and the fun that awaits includes pumpkin-picking, hayrides, mazes, a hay slide, and my kids' favorite, the corn sandbox.
Williams Nursery – Westfield
The perfect "starter" pumpkin patch for the little ones, Williams is an adorable farm with a small homemade pumpkin patch. You'll also find wagons to pull, a maze, hayride, pony rides, and apple cider. Keep an eye out for fall events, such as a scarecrow contest and free mini pumpkin weekends.
This article first published in September 2012 but is updated annually.
Top photo by Christine Szeto via Flickr.